Why are you so scary? (Part 1)

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I wasn’t always a “doll person”. Sure, I had Sindy and Barbie dolls as a child. As a matter of fact, I used to create elaborate settings for them thanks to a 2-shelf cupboard next to my bed in my childhood bedroom. I never had any Barbie doll houses, so that cupboard, and the area beneath my white, girly corner desk, were routinely transformed into Barbie flats thanks to shoeboxes and folded pillow slips for beds, with face flannels for blankets. I would steal the cardboards out of my father’s dry cleaned shirts, and routinely make dresses out of socks, dish rags, anything I could get my hands on.

But by my late teens, I’d set my dolls aside, sold them off at rummage sales, left them with the children I looked after. Left them behind, as I found new outlets for my creative energy. I began writing short stories for media fanzines, attending science fiction conventions, and after I was taught the basics of HTML at university back in 1994, building dozens of fan websites for TV series I loved.

As an adult, between web design gigs and temping, I worked as a freelance journalist–first in fandom, then in print magazines. By the summer of 2004, I was one of the editors of a pop culture website called MediaSharx, published by half of the original team behind a popular news site called Zentertainment. And my publisher wanted articles for a proposed 80s Month.

I have been–and will always be–a huge animation geek, and two of my all-time favourites of the 1980s was Jem, which was the soap opera of my tween and teen years. I immediately proposed an interview with Christy Marx, who had developed the series for television and written the lion’s share of the episodes.

It was interviewing Christy that pretty much changed my life.

The first two series of Jem had just been released by Rhino on dvd, and like a good little journo who does her homework, I bought the dvds and watched all the special features, including interviews and commentaries from Marx, to make sure I wasn’t asking her any questions that she’d answered publically dozens of times. I also read through the archives of the Truly Outrageous mailing list, where Christy was a frequent poster.

I compiled my question list, arranged the interview, and then had a fantastic 45 minute phoner with the amazingly talented Marx. Though the interview was focussed on the Jem animated series, we did talk about the line of Hasbro dolls, and Christy told me that there was a small but dedicated fanbase who still collected the dolls, fashions, playsets and other licensed products.

I was amazed; I’d had no idea that doll collected was such “a thing”.

(Laugh all you want; at the time, I was a complete and total neophyte.)

I joined the Truly Outrageous mailing list and a message board called “Jem & Friends”, to publicise the article. And, because I had taken the dvds with me to my sister’s and rewatched the entire dvd box set, my passion for Jem was reignited.

I bought two MIB Stormer dolls, as she was my favourite character, and gave one to my sister. I kept mine in her “on stage” fashion for years, displayed proudly on my bookcase, and posted to the list and board now and then, even after the interview was posted in September, 2004.

Then I found out one of the Jem & Friends board members was planning a one-day gathering in Minneapolis that she dubbed “JemCon”. That first JemCon was tiny, but it spawned an annual convention. I took my mother and sister to JemCon 2006, which was being held in Orlando near where they lived. At the con, I met some Chicago area fans, and was talked into helping to put together Chicago’s bid for JemCon 2007.

Thus began my long, slow slide into becoming a “doll person”.

(to be continued…)

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